Bollinger County Q&A

Friday, October 29, 2004

First District

Commissioner

How will your background help you make decisions as county commissioner?

Vangennip: My time as a supervisor for the highway department gave me experience in dealing with the public and other people I work with. I also have four years of on-the-job training.

Beal: For the past 34 years, I have owned my own row crop and cattle business. I am responsible for the decisions necessary to conduct this business on a daily basis. I am familiar with budgeting, operation and maintenance of heavy equipment, and the marketing of my crop. I am also involved in several organizations, where I assist others in the decisions of each organization. I feel that I will be able to apply this experience to make conservative and wise decisions for our county.

Do you think the county is being run efficiently?

Vangennip: I think so. We've had some problems in the past, but we've worked a lot of them out. I think we're doing well with what we have.

Beal: I feel that improvements could be implemented.

If so, do you believe there are other, larger issues at stake here?

Vangennip: Most people running would do an honest job, so I don't see problems either way. Whomever wins will move ahead with the budget we have and weigh each decision against the financial well-being of the county.

Beal: One way to improve the county would be through an open line of communication. There should always be communication between the commissioners, the road supervisor and the county crew. If everyone is aware of projects that need to be completed, better teamwork will result with more efficiency in the county.

How much budget authority should be given to elected officials and department heads?

Vangennip: The department heads know what's available and have given us respect. We work together real well. Each office does everything it can to stay within budget, but each department's needs are most important to them and someone (the commissioner) has to mediate. I think that balance works real well.

Beal: Elected officials and department heads should complete steps to work with county residents and research programs in order to make conservative decisions. The elected officials and department heads should use the information gained to implement the needed budget for the county.

How has your experience shaped your approach to this job?

Vangennip: I've been working with the public for most of my life and that experience has given me some insight. You have to listen to every individual need, but you also have to make a decision. When you make those decisions, you try to help the most people possible. You try to meet individual needs while looking at those of the larger population.

Beal: My past years on the farm with low prices for my products and the steadily rising cost of production gives me the insight for approaching this job. Just like farming, the county must complete a conservative and workable budget.

Second district

commissioner

How will your background help you make decisions as county commissioner?

Whitener: I have four years experience as associate commissioner. I know how to get things done. In my time here, we've made a number of major accomplishments, including construction of the Castor River Bridge at Gipsy, preliminary work on a Cricket Creek Bridge at Laflin, replacement of a 40-year-old roof on the county courthouse and major renovations in the courtroom.

Macke: I was born and raised in the county, so I know the people. I used to own a successful store in Leopold, so I know business. Working on the farm, I have experience operating heavy equipment, so I can better appreciate the work our road crews do.

Do you think the county is being run efficiently?

Whitener: Yes. All of the office holders are responsible people, concerned about the people's dollars being used wisely.

Macke: They're doing a fairly good job, but they aren't as efficient in certain areas, specifically in the construction of our roads. The commission is not getting the quality of roads that they're paying for. The workers are often pushed too hard to cover too many miles, they don't have time to do the best job.

If so, do you believe there are other, larger issues at stake here?

Whitener: We have plans for the future that we will be working on and issues we will be addressing. These include continuation of courthouse renovations, chatting more roads and widening county roads where possible. We need to keep the current commission in place to fulfill that vision and complete that plan.

Macke: You hardly ever see a commissioner out on those roads. I'll work closer with the road crews and uphold better lines of communication with them. I'll always be available to them.

How much budget authority should be given to elected officials and department heads?

Whitener: Each office holder prepares a budget. We as commissioners have the responsibility to oversee those budgets and make sure they stay within the means of the county. Someone has to be responsible, and I think it should be the commission.

Macke: The way it works now is decent. The commission should have the final say over budget manners. I'm willing to work with anybody and listen to anybody, but the commissioner has to have the larger picture in mind.

How has your experience shaped your approach to this job?

Whitener: I have 20 years of experience as the general manager of a car rental company. I oversaw six locations and was in charge of 50 employees, problem solving and budgeting. I have experience taking care of other people's money. I bring this to the commission.

Macke: I've always worked with people. It's important in this job to work well with people. I understand the people of the county. I was born and raised here, and I still own the family farm.

Sheriff

How will your background help you make decisions for the sheriff's department?

Wiseman: I have almost four years experience as sheriff.

Wiesner: I'm a retired lieutenant supervisor of the detective bureau of the Allentown Police Department in Pennsylvania. I spent almost 30 years in law enforcement, 18 in supervision and investigations. I've worked on 39 homicides and spent four years as an undercover drug investigator. I've been there, done that, and that experience will benefit Bollinger County.

Some have claimed that accessibility of law enforcement is a key issue in the election. Do you agree?

Wiseman: My home phone number's in the book. I've always maintained an open-door policy to listen to people's problems and try to fix them. We simply don't have the money to hire any more officers, but we do have 911, and we're available 24 hours a day.

Wiesner: I agree that accessibility of the sheriff's department is a problem. The sheriff has to understand that each person's problem seems monumental to them and a sheriff has to listen to everyone's problems. I also think the lack of visible patrol is a key issue.

If you not, what are the other issues?

Wiseman: We need to continue to aggressively address the drug problems in this county, specifically meth labs. Hopefully we'll be able to find grant money and additional funding outside of the county budget to help in this effort.

Wiesner: I'll put more patrol on the street. The presence of personnel leads to less crime. I will also institute more policy and procedure when acting on calls. Outside networking is important, but it is also important to do the initial work within the department and not pass the buck to the highway patrol or other agencies.

Why would you be a good person to work for?

Wiseman: Like I said, I keep an open-door policy, both for the public and for my staff. If anybody has a problem, I'll listen. As long as they're doing their job, I don't have a problem. In fact, I make an effort to praise their work and pat them on the back when they deserve it.

Wiesner: You have to be firm yet fair to be a good supervisor. Everybody's situation is different, and you have to take that into account when dealing with staff members. I've never had a problem guiding the people who've worked for me in the past.

How has your experience shaped your approach to this job?

Wiseman: I've lived here all my life. I know the people and can get down on a one on one basis. I also know the ins and outs of the job. I know that it's important to network and utilize other agencies like the highway patrol as much as is needed. I also have a good working relationship with the commission and other elected officials. I don't always agree with them, but I don't carry on or rant and rave about it. We work together and together we get a lot accomplished.

Wiesner: I was never one that dreamed about being in law enforcement when I was younger. But when I went into it, I gave it my all. I enjoy solving crime, and I'm good at it. Like I said, I've been there and done that.

Public Administrator

WINFORD BROWN IS RETIRING AFTER MORE THAN 25 YEARS AS BOLLINGER COUNTY PUBLIC ADMINISTRATOR. SINCE EXPERIENCE IN THE ACTUAL POSITION IS A MOOT POINT, WHAT OUTSIDE EXPERIENCE DO YOU HAVE THAT WILL HELP YOU DO THIS JOB?

WELKER: SINCE GRADUATING HIGH SCHOOL IN 1960, I'VE ALWAYS WORKED IN BOLLINGER COUNTY. FIRST FOR BARKER FURNITURE IN SALES AND SERVICE, AND THEN AS A BUSINESS OWNER FOR 25 YEARS IN A WOODWORKING OPERATION THAT EMPLOYED UP TO 28 PEOPLE AT ONE TIME. IN ALL OF THESE I HAVE WORKED WITH OR SERVICED THE PEOPLE OF BOLLINGER COUNTY.

LUTES: I GAINED EXPERIENCE HANDLING MY DAD'S AFFAIRS. I DON'T KNOW THAT ANYBODY ELSE HAS MUCH MORE THAN THAT. NO ONE ELSE HAS DONE THIS JOB.

WHY WILL YOU BE ABLE TO RELATE WITH THE UNFORTUNATE INDIVIDUALS YOU WILL BE HELPING IN THIS JOB?

WIESNER: I HAVE ALWAYS FELT I COULD RELATE AND WAS TAUGHT TO RESPECT ALL PEOPLE REGARDLESS OF THEIR CIRCUMSTANCES.

LUTES: I KNOW WHAT I HAD TO GO THROUGH BEFORE WITH MY DAD. I KNOW HOW THESE PEOPLE ARE TREATED, SORT OF SHOVED TO THE BACK BURNER MOST OF THE TIME BY THE MEDICAL COMMUNITY.

SO MUCH OF THIS JOB IS BALANCING THAT COMPASSION WITH THE RESTRAINTS OF A BUDGET. HOW WILL YOU APPROACH THIS CONFLICT?

WIESNER: I WILL ALWAYS GO AS FAR AS THE BUDGET WILL ALLOW, BUT OUR COUNTY HAS A LIMITED AMOUNT OF REVENUE AND SEVERAL CONCERNS WHEN THE BUDGET IS PREPARED. I FEEL THE COMMISSION HAS DONE A GOOD JOB WITH OUR COUNTY'S FINANCIAL MATTERS AND I LOOK FORWARD TO SERVING THE COUNTY WITH THEM.

LUTES: ALL YOU CAN DO IS THE BEST YOU CAN. YOU HAVE TO PRIORITIZE, HELPING THE PEOPLE WHO NEED HELP THE MOST AND HELPING PEOPLE WITH WHAT THEY NEED MOST HELP WITH.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM YOUR CAMPAIGNING THAT WILL HELP YOU BETTER FILL THIS POSITION?

WIESNER: I THINK THE PEOPLE EXPECT THE CANDIDATE TO DO THE JOB FOR ALL THE PEOPLE OF THE COUNTY WITHOUT BEING PARTIAL TO ANYONE OR ANY CERTAIN GROUP.

LUTES: I'VE BEEN TOLD BY A FEW PEOPLE THAT THERE IS A NEED FOR THE PUBLIC ADMINISTRATOR'S SERVICES, MORE SO THAN I HAD ORIGINALLY THOUGHT. GOING DOOR TO DOOR, A LOT OF PEOPLE DIDN'T KNOW WE HAD A PUBLIC ADMINISTRATOR AND THOSE WHO DID, DIDN'T KNOW WHAT THE POSITION WAS FOR. I WANT TO HELP PEOPLE KNOW MORE ABOUT THE POSITION.

SINCE YOU WOULD BE THE FIRST NEW PUBLIC ADMINISTRATOR IN OVER A QUARTER CENTURY, IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD DO TO CHANGE HOW THE DUTIES OF THE POSITION ARE HANDLED? IF SO, WHAT ARE THEY?

WIESNER: IT'S HARD TO SAY AT THIS POINT. I DON'T EXPECT TO MAKE ANY CHANGES RIGHT AWAY AND MAYBE NOT AT ALL. I WILL ALWAYS BE LOOKING FOR MORE EFFICIENT WAYS TO ADMINISTER THE DUTIES OF THIS OFFICE, BUT I WILL ALWAYS KEEP THE CONCERNS AND WELFARE OF THE WARDS AS MY TOP PRIORITY.

LUTES: I WOULDN'T THINK I'D MAKE ANY CHANGES RIGHT OFF. I'M NOT SURE HOW BROWN HAS DONE IT. IT'LL BE A LEARNING EXPERIENCE AND AFTER I GET MY FEET WET, I MIGHT SEE A BETTER WAY TO DO IT.

Coroner

WHAT SKILLS DO YOU POSSESS THAT WILL MAKE YOU A GOOD CORONER?

HUTCHINGS: COUNTY CORONER IS DEFINITELY A LAW ENFORCEMENT JOB. THE CORONER IS RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL INVESTIGATIONS IN ANY DEATH. I HAVE A DEGREE IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE. ALSO MY BACKGROUND IN PHOTOGRAPHY HELPS BECAUSE EVERY SCENE HAS TO BE DOCUMENTED.

RITTER: I'VE BEEN A LICENSED FUNERAL DIRECTOR SINCE 1988. I SPENT THREE AND A HALF YEARS AS A CHAPLAIN IN A ST. LOUIS TRAUMA CENTER. AS A CORONER, YOU ALSO PROVIDE EMOTIONAL HELP TO THE FAMILIES INVOLVED. I THINK MY EXPERIENCE AS A PASTOR WILL HELP ME BE AN ASSET TO THOSE FAMILIES.

HOW HAS YOUR EXPERIENCE SHAPED YOUR APPROACH TO THIS JOB?

HUTCHINGS: I HAVE FOUR YEARS OF EXPERIENCE AS BOLLINGER COUNTY CORONER, PLUS I WAS A POLICE OFFICER IN JACKSON AND AN INVESTIGATOR FOR THE PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION. THESE EXPERIENCES HAVE HELPED ME BE ABLE TO BETTER READ PEOPLE. I CAN TELL WHEN THEY'RE NOT BEING TRUTHFUL DURING AN INVESTIGATION. I'VE ALSO ATTENDED FOUR DEATH INVESTIGATION PROGRAMS IN JEFFERSON CITY, SO I KNOW WHAT TO LOOK FOR AT A DEATH SCENE. IT TAUGHT ME TO BE ABLE TO READ A BODY, TO LEARN ABOUT THE DEATH FROM THE BODY.

RITTER: I KNOW HOW FAMILIES DEAL WITH CRISIS. SOMETIMES THEY JUST NEED SOMEONE THERE. YOU HAVE TO LET THEM VENT AND SHARE THEIR FEELINGS WITH YOU. THE CORONER IS NOT THERE TO DICTATE TO THEM, HE'S THERE TO HELP. THE CORONER HAS OTHER RESPONSIBILITIES, OF COURSE, BUT IN THIS COUNTY ESPECIALLY, THIS ASPECT OF THE JOB IS IMPORTANT. I KNOW A LOT OF THESE FAMILIES FROM MY 14 YEARS IN THIS AREA.

SHOULD THE POSITION OF CORONER BE MADE A FULL-TIME POSITION?

HUTCHINGS: NOT IN BOLLINGER COUNTY. IT WOULD BE TOO EXPENSIVE TO THE COUNTY. THE CORONER DOESN'T GET THAT MANY CASES HERE. THE RESIDENTS OF THIS COUNTY GET THEIR MONEY'S WORTH FROM A PART-TIME CORONER.

RITTER: NOT IN BOLLINGER COUNTY. THE CORONER DOESN'T HAVE AS MANY CALLS TO SANCTION A FULL-TIME CORONER.

IS THE CORONER'S SALARY ADEQUATE IN PROPORTION TO THE DUTIES ENTAILED?

HUTCHINGS: SOME MONTHS I GET SIX TO EIGHT CALLS AND I'M OVERPAID. OTHER MONTHS I GET 60 TO 80 CALLS AND I'M UNDERPAID. SO, I GUESS IT BALANCES OUT.

RITTER: I THINK IT'S ADEQUATE FOR THIS COUNTY AND THE DUTIES THEREIN. YOU HAVE TO HELP THE COUNTY STAY WITHIN ITS BUDGET.

WHAT WOULD YOU DO TO IMPROVE THE POSITION AND ITS EFFECTIVENESS, IF CHANGE IS INDEED NECESSARY?

HUTCHINGS: WE'RE WORKING ON THAT, TRYING TO PUT MORE PEOPLE IN THE CORONER'S OFFICE. WE ALREADY HAVE ONE DEPUTY, AND I'M WORKING ON GETTING TWO NEW UNPAID DEPUTY CORONERS IF I'M ELECTED. WE'RE ALSO TRYING TO SET UP PEOPLE IN THE DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE COUNTY WITH SOME EQUIPMENT AND TRAINING IN CASE OF A DISASTER. THE GOAL IS TO HAVE A PERSON WITH LIMITED TRAINING IN THE NORTH, SOUTH, EAST AND WEST IN RESERVE IN CASE THE CORONER IS UNABLE TO MAKE IT.

RITTER: A LOT OF THINGS YOU LEARN ON THE JOB. I COULDN'T ANSWER UNTIL I GOT INTO OFFICE. THIS IS A GREAT COMMUNITY, BUT WE'RE NOT THE TV SHOW "CSI." SOMEONE COULD ADD A LOT OF THINGS THAT WE DON'T NEED THAT WOULD COST THE COUNTY MONEY. THE CORONER HAS TO WORK FOR THE COUNTY, WITHIN ITS BUDGET.

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